Launched in 2010, the Tata Aria sold very few units, while its main rivals, the XUV500 and the Innova, are turning out to be bread and butter products. Relaunched now as the 2014 Aria, Tata has tweaked the engine while offering minor exterior and interior improvements. Here is our review of the updated Aria -
If this review praises anything about the Aria, it has to be the exteriors which still look fresh and modern despite being over four years old. Though the body surfaces of the Aria are plain, the overall shape and profile of the crossover appear as though the car was designed only recently.
The 2014 Aria has minimal exterior changes. The first being the blackened-out headlights, which look cool on this dark shade of the car. Towards the rear, the taillights are given clear lenses on their top portion, while the side of the Aria gets body decals, which manage to not look conspicuous. Overall, while the changes may be minimal, the 2014 Aria manages to look fresh.
As soon as you step inside the Aria, things start going downhill. Firstly, the design of the dashboard and steering wheel look a bit dated.
The next disappointment is the ergonomics of the car: When the driver seat height is increased, the driver’s thigh rubs against the key-in-ignition. The footwell too is a bit narrow and devoid of a dead-clutch. And finally, the steering wheel is too large in diameter for city driving conditions. Tata could have improved upon in these areas to make the Aria more driver friendly.
The quality of materials used inside varies from average to above-average. For example, the buttons on the steering wheel feel a bit cheap, whereas the buttons on the center console feel good to operate.
A positive thing about the interiors are the panel gaps, which appear uniform throughout. In the current crop of Tata cars (excluding the upcoming Zest and Bolt), the Aria’s interior is the best in terms of fit and build quality.
The rear seat has generous space, be it in width, headroom or knee-room. The same cannot be said about the third row, which is best occupied by children. Getting in-and-out of the third row is not as easy as say in an Innova.
The top-end Aria you see here comes with 6 airbags, ABS, EBD, ESP, TCS, automatic climate control, 2-DIN music system with Bluetooth and navigation, cruise control, automatic wipers, automatic headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels and projector headlights.
While a reverse camera is provided, the image quality from this camera is pretty poor. Tata should have included parking sensors as well given the size of the Aria. Special mention goes for the air-conditioning system which has no problems cooling the cabin despite the temperature outside.
Engine and Gearbox:
The Aria is powered by the same four-cylinder 2.2-liter diesel engine. However, engineers have now retuned this engine to produce 150 PS at 4,000 rpm and 320 Nm of torque between 1,500-3,000 rpm.
At idle, the Aria sounds as quiet as a modern day diesel car. Even on the move, for the most part, you can only hear the turbo whistle of this engine.
While the noise levels have been addressed, we cannot say the same about vibrations. If you’re used to driving a car with your left palm resting on the gearknob, you will constantly feel the gearbox working. Tata needs to address this issue if it wants the product to attract a 15 lakh rupee customer.
Tata’s move to increase the Aria’s engine power by 10 PS has not gone in vain. The motor spreads its torque very well in the low-mid regions, and unless you’re below 2,000 rpm, there is no reason to shift down a gear for quick overtaking. We also noticed that the engine is a bit more free revving, and doesn’t mind being stretched to about 4,000 rpm. Speaking about the clutch, the clutch pedal is on the heavier side.
Overall, the engine of the Aria is noticeably improved upon compared to the previous model. We would have liked similar improvements to the vibrations of the car.
Ride and Handling:
Ride quality is the Aria’s biggest forte, as the car manages to glide over most potholes and bad roads. The chunky 235/65 Bridgestone Dueler tires aid in the ride of the car as well. Even without much load, the Aria doesn't get bouncy over uneven terrain.
The Aria’s handling is best described average. The steering, despite feeling heavy, provides little feedback, while the dynamics of the car indicate it to be tail-heavy. Straight line stability at speeds below 120 km/h is rather good. Speaking about speed, the Aria feels best when driven below that speed, as the steering wheel feels a bit uneasy at speeds beyond.
Brakes and Safety:
Braking is one area where we were completely satisfied with the Aria. The Aria gets disc brakes on all its wheels, which provide good stopping power. The brake pedal is one of the better units fitted to a Tata car, and feels assuring to use. The grip from the tires is commendable as well.
To top it off, the Aria comes equipped with 6 airbags, ABS, EBD, ESP and TCS.
While Tata says the Aria will do 15.05 km/l, our tests saw the crossover returning 8.62 km/l. For most part, we drove the car in 4x2 mode.
The 2014 Aria is available in three variants: Pure LX, Pleasure and Pride 4x4. The prices range from INR 9.95 lakhs to INR 14.74 lakhs, ex-Showroom, New Delhi.
No doubt, the 2014 Tata Aria is mechanically improved compared to its predecessor. However, fact remains that the Aria is still a chore to drive because of its heavy steering wheel, the average ergonomics, the vibrations in the gearlever and the slightly heavy clutch.
While the Aria's ride quality and rear seat comfort are two class leading features, behind the wheel, you're not as comfortable as you should be. An automatic transmission would do a world of difference here.
At the end of the day, you’re left feeling that Tata could have done a more thorough job of updating the car. It is for this reason that we would still recommend the Toyota Innova for anyone looking for an MPV at INR 15 lakhs.